Remittance flows and remittance expenditure patterns are not only determined by economic variables in destination and origin countries, but are also affected by patterns of migrant selectivity and socio-cultural factors in origin societies. This is exemplified in a paper by Kurien (2008) based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork on remittances in three village communities in Kerala, India. Kurien observed striking differences in remittance flows and remittance expenditure in the three villages, which all experienced large-scale migration to the Gulf region. Whereas in the Muslim village, emphasis was given to distributing remittances to a large circle of community members, migrants in the Hindu village tended spent large sums of money on life-cycle rituals. In the Christian village, remittance expenditure was largely confined to the immediate family, with an emphasis on saving the money earned for dowries and education. These differences should also be partly attributed to differences in migration selectivity, with Muslim migrants mostly working in the informal sector of Gulf countries and Hindu and, particularly, Christian villagers taking up formal positions as technicians, clerical workers and semi-professionals.

There is a lively but still inconclusive debate on differences in remittance patterns among male and female migrants. Based on an analysis of National Migration Survey data from Thailand, Osaki (1999) concluded that female internal migrants show a deeper commitment than male internal migrants to providing economic support to households left behind. Similarly, Tacoli (1999) concluded that among Filipino labour migrants in Rome, women’s commitments and obligations toward their households in home areas were generally stronger than those of their male counterparts. However, spatial distance and increased financial independence may provide some Filipina migrants with the opportunity to pursue `self-interested’ goals while at the same time keeping within the ‘altruistic’ role dictated by normative gender roles.

However, some other empirical studies have reached rather more inconclusive or opposite conclusions. For instance, drawing on household survey data Semyonov and Gorodzeisky (2005) showed that Filipino male overseas workers remit more money than do women. This might indicate that whereas women are often under higher social pressure to remit money, men might be able to send more money because of their generally higher earnings. In line with this hypothesis, Semyonov and Gorodzeisky (2005) reveal that earnings of Filipina overseas workers are lower than those of Filipino workers, even after controlling for variations in occupational distributions, destination countries, and socio-demographic variables. However, even when controlling for income differentials between men and women, Filipino men still remitted more money than female migrants do.

Publication Details

Topic 6 – Socio-Cultural Determinants of Remittances
Social Science Research Council
Publish Date
March 2009
0, Topic 6 – Socio-Cultural Determinants of Remittances (Social Science Research Council, March 2009).